Whitesburg KY

Obesity: Major problem here

Lack of exercise, poor diets, overeating, little or no preventive healthcare including annual screenings and lack of health information have all contributed over the past decades to what’s now a major health problem in adults as well as children across our nation. A generation ago when children and adults spent more time doing things outdoors and when fast food was less accessible, obesity was much less of a problem. Today, obesity is on the rise in many parts of the U.S. and has reached a major health epidemic.

As the largest healthcare provider in the region with a mission to improve the health and well-being of all people in Central Appalachia, serving 350,000 residents across eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia, Appalachian Regional Healthcare is very concerned about the obesity problem and chronic diseases that can develop due to being severely overweight.

Kentucky has not fared well. It is the seventh-highest ranked in the U.S. at 27.5 percent for adult obesity and the third highest in youths (ages 10-17) at 20.6 percent, according to a 2007 report by Trust for America’s Health.

In addition to being overweight and the mental stress extra pounds can add, obesity contributes to the onset of many diseases including type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep problems and heart disease, to name a few.

We’ve got to get active about the obesity problem through our communities, our schools, our churches, and our government – and work together to bring about change. With the high rate of overweight youths, eliminating obesity would have a major impact on the health of future generations.

ARH believes that one way to reduce the number of cases of overweight and obese children is by offering the adults raising them more options for healthier lifestyles. By making healthier lifestyle choices, parents are better prepared to serve as healthy examples to their children.

It is ARH’s goal to promote services and offer opportunities to improve overall health. A number of community health fairs are held throughout the year across the communities we serve offering free health information and free health screenings. ARH also supports healthier lifestyles through safe weight loss programs offered by support groups such as Weight Watchers, which meets in many of our facilities.

In addition, ARH also currently has plans in place for a new employee wellness initiative to help our more than 4,400 employees lead happier, healthier and more productive lives.

Another important way to get active about the obesity problem is through our federal, state and local governments. While ARH is dedicated and consistently works with government officials to affect change in policy and funding to improve health, you can also be an advocate for change.

Contact your local government officials and let them know you are concerned about the obesity problem in your community.

Be proactive in your children’s and grandchildren’s health and school lunch programs.

Lead a healthy lifestyle.

Take advantage of free ARH screenings and visit your doctor regularly.

Seek help if you are severely overweight. ARH has added new surgical weight loss services in Whitesburg and Hazard for obese adults who have not been able to lose weight through diet and exercise.

J.D. Miller, M.D., is vice president of medical affairs for Appalachian Regional Healthcare, which operates the Whitesburg hospital.

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